About the lecture
This lecture took place on 10 November 2020, as part of the 2020 Sydney Asian Art Series.
Scholars have long noticed how the ‘Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ (Walter Benjamin), following the invention of lithography, revolutionised the practice of art and its consumption in late-Qing China. However, few scholars have paid attention to copperplate printing, which was introduced to Shanghai commercially almost at the same time. Significantly, while the introduction of lithography centred on the Englishman Ernest Major, the import of copperplate printing technology was part of a Sino-Japanese network tracing back to the Edo period. One of the most representative operators was Rakuzendō, run by the famous journalist, entrepreneur, and adventurer Kishida Ginkō, who like Major, published a painting manual based on his personal collection of Chinese art. This paper focuses on the copperplate printing business of Rakuzendō, revealing how it competed with lithography in art reproduction. Most importantly, it shows how images of Chinese art mediated by the technology of lithography differed from those reproduced by copperplate engraving. It also looks at how these two media, one from the ‘West’ and the other from ‘Japan’, were each distinctly perceived and accepted, contributing to a silent mutation in Chinese art at the end of the 19th century.
About the Speaker
Yu-chih Lai received her Ph.D. in the History of Art from Yale University and is an associate researcher in the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica, Taiwan. Her two fields of research are Chinese visual culture in Shanghai in the 19th century, especially its interactions with Japan, and the globalized visual and material culture of the Manchu Chinese court in the 18th century. Her recent publications include the co-authored catalogue Fineries of Forgery: Suzhou Fakes and Their Influence in the 16th and 18th Century (2018), for the eponymous exhibition co-curated with Li-chiang Lin and Shih-hua Chiu, and Seeing and Touching Gender: New Perspectives in Modern Chinese Art (forthcoming), co-edited with Dorothy Ko and Aida Yuen Wong. Her next book project is tentatively entitled Visual Governance: Art, Knowledge, and Politics in the Qing Court. In 2018 she was the Hulsewé-Wazniewski Stichting Visiting Professor at the University of Leiden, and Lai has previously held fellowships at the Institute for Advanced Study, Heidelberg University, University of Tokyo and Princeton University.
The 2020 Sydney Asian Art Series
Each year, the Sydney Asian Art Series gathers leading international voices on critical issues in early, modern and contemporary Asian art. In response to the cancellation of in-person events, the 2020 series has moved online. As we embrace this virtual format, the 2020 series aptly explores the intersections of art and visual technologies, in the context of Mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan and South Asia. Learn more here.
The series is convened and moderated by Dr Olivier Krischer who is an art historian, curator, and editor based at the University of Sydney, where he is the acting director of the China Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.
This series of talks and events is co-presented by the University of Sydney’s China Studies Centre, The Power Institute, and VisAsia, with support from the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Originating in and celebrating the very latest and best scholarship in Asian art from around the world, this initiative complements the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ innovative exhibition program in Asian art, and the University of Sydney’s region-leading programs in the arts and cultures of Asia.